ISLAMABAD          -       Pakistan Peoples’ Party has no designs to derail democracy by calling the All Parties Conference (APC) amid tension with the government, senior party leaders said on Tuesday.

The PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) this week vowed a joint struggle to protect the nation from the ‘fascist regime.’ Both the parties also decided to form a joint opposition coordination committee, which will meet in the ongoing week, while the APC will take place after Eid-ul-Azha.

These decisions were taken in a meeting between a PML-N delegation, led by party Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, and PPP leadership. The N-League delegation called on PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at Bilawal House in Lahore. The visitors included Ahsan Iqbal and MNAs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Khwaja Saad Rafique.

Speaking at a news conference later, the PPP and the PML-N leaders said the nation wanted the government to go at the earliest. They said the situation demanded a joint and effective strategy.

They claimed the opposition’s main focus would be to determine a way to rid the nation of the government.  PPP Vice President Senator Sherry Rehman said the APC was a peaceful democratic platform for the opposition to articulate joint issues of urgent public concern

“Too many crises have erupted under this government in Pakistan, and there seems to be no will or competence to stem a series of public emergencies,” she told The Nation. She said the people had expectations from the PPP. “They (the people) want to hear from us, demonstrate leadership and create forums where such a rising graph of public discontent is addressed via all constitutional and lawful forums. The PPP has given blood for democracy and we will always support the democratic process,” she added.

PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said the APC was aimed at formulating a joint strategy. “The agenda is not against democracy but wrong policies of the incumbent government. We will not allow them (the government) to play with the 18th amendment,” he said.

-IPRI discuses 18th Amendment -

As the government-opposition tension intensifies, the Islamabad Policy Research Institute organized a special webinar on “18th Amendment: Impact on Governance in Pakistan” here. Discussing post-18th Amendment fiscal space issues faced by federal government and possible solutions, Dr Nadeemul Haque stressed the need for exhaustive research and debate before any policy is proposed in the National Assembly.

‘A white paper should be circulated a year before any policy is set in motion’, he said. He added that the case of the 18th Amendment has begotten a frenzy of speculations and conspiracy theories pitting the opposition against the government; and stressed that the 18th Amendment is a political issue rather than an economic one.

Dr Haque pointed out the NFC award happened hastily, and has thus far, not been representative nor offers any clarity on what needs to be done, by whom and how. ‘Policy decisions taken in a vacuum have serious consequences’, he warned.

He also stressed that the 18th Amendment calls for a smaller federal structure but despite that the size and number of federal ministries/agencies/departments continues to increase albeit under different nomenclature.

At the same time, he explained that the provinces too have been jealously guarding their turf and not focusing on strengthening local governance, an important part of the Amendment. Albeit, a decade into its passage, terms of the 18th Amendment are yet to be implemented in letter and spirit, he lamented.

Discussing the post-18th Amendment governance challenges and possible solutions, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob provided a historical overview and background of the issue.

He said since health, education and labour are not part of the Concurrent List, serious issues of coordination have arisen. Sharing the Terms of Reference of the Council of Common Interests, he opined that despite not being 100% functional, the CCI has become ‘a state within a state’ making decision-taking complex and time-consuming.